With marijuana becoming increasingly accepted in the United States and more states legalizing the drug, there is a booming industry for people to make money off of marijuana. One of these weed entrepreneurs, Brendan Kennedy, left a high-paying banking job to enter the marijuana business.
Kennedy, who has an MBA from Yale, was an executive at Silicon Valley Bank in 2010 when a California-based medical marijuana company came to the bank. It gave Kennedy the idea to begin researching the topic of marijuana. Through his research, he reached two conclusions: the era of marijuana prohibition in the U.S. was ending and legalization would open up an enormous marketplace for entrepreneurs.
Days later, Kennedy decided he was going to enter the cannabis industry, and he recruited a former business school colleague to join him. By the end of 2010, Kennedy quit his job and spent the next year traveling the world to learn more about marijuana, speaking to growers, patients, physicians and others.
Realizing the industry had problems, Kennedy started his Seattle-based venture capital firm, Privateer Holdings, which operates exclusively in cannabis businesses. Privateer raised $7 million in its first round of funding — before recreational marijuana was legal in any states. The company’s mission to help provide branding, marketing and other business needs to a growing marijuana industry in America — which, by many estimates, could be valued at tens of billions of dollars — that was lacking such services.
Kennedy is just one example of an entrepreneur who saw an opportunity in the burgeoning marijuana industry and left a good career to make the risky move into the largely-unknown weed industry.